6 Most Common Types of Plagiarism. Examples Included

Types of Plagiarism

“Plagiarism” is a term on everyone’s lips. No one wants to be accused of it. But it’s possible for even the most well-meaning of students to accidentally commit plagiarism if they aren’t careful about referencing their sources. If you are one of these unlucky people caught with intentional or unintentional plagiarism, we have something for you. Read about the eight most common types of plagiarism so the next time, you will be 100% sure of what plagiarism is, what it is not, and how to avoid it. 

What Are the Most Common Types of Plagiarism?

In the 21st century, there’ve been so many people who’ve lived before us that sometimes it’s challenging not to cross tracks with someone’s else ideas. In our previous article on the topic, we gave recommendations to avoid plagiarizing someone’s work. In this one, you’ll find easy, memorable examples and explanations of the forms of plagiarism.

All the examples below are intentionally simple and illustrative, so you can easily remember them. They are not samples of actual citations but figurative illustrations of the types of plagiarism. 

Generally, you must avoid these six types of plagiarism:

The Plagiarism of the Complete Work


The student found a text written by someone named Mr. Adams. It was a website from far down in their Google search. Moreover, it was not a post but a file uploaded in one of the comments. The text happened to be perfectly relevant to the student’s essay, so the student copied the whole piece, thinking that it would be impossible to catch. 


This is an example of plagiarism of a complete work. It is irrelevant that the student found the work at the end of their Google search and that they found it in the comments. The main characteristic of this form of plagiarism is that the whole piece has been used with no reference to the creator. Complete work plagiarism is different from the “patchwork” type, which we will also review in this text. 

In business, intellectual rights are a matter of finances, career, and getting credentials for your honest work. In this sphere, you learn early that “no plagiarism” is an unbreakable law. 

Ibrahim Hiary, the applicant for a Master’s Degree in Business in the USA

Direct Plagiarism With No Reference


The text written by Mr. Adams looked like this: “Contrary to dogs, cats are not very social animals. You may have noticed that many cats do not seek the same attention from humans as dogs do. The majority of cats are far less prone to showing affection.”

The plagiarized text written by the student looked like this:I have noticed that many cats do not seek the same attention from humans as dogs do. The majority of cats are far less prone to showing affection, so I prefer dogs over cats.


This type of plagiarism means that the person has copied the whole text but included one short excerpt with no citation. The copied phrase may have been good for explaining the point, or the writer may have forgotten to include their source. Anyway, each piece of information from the “outside” should be properly cited. That rule also applies to cases when the source has been mentioned earlier in the text. Each format has different requirements for citing the source multiple times in the text. The citation should be in the text after every excerpt you take from the work. 

Why plagiarism is unethical

Direct Plagiarism With a Reference


The student’s text should have looked like this:Mr. Gabar said, I do not eat pork.’ I absolutely understand and respect Mr. Gabar’s beliefs and religion, but as a Christian, I can eat that kind of meat.”


You should use quotation marks every time you transmit a direct phrase from the source. Furthermore, you should make sure that when you use quotation marks, you are accurately representing what they said. This type of plagiarism is a severe violation of an author’s work. In the example above, if the student misquoted the author, writing I do not pork  it would totally change the meaning of the author’s words and perhaps even offend their religious beliefs.

Both in China and in the U.S., plagiarism is really a big deal. Of course, I would never plagiarize intentionally, but I still check my work every time to avoid doing so unintentionally. I use this plagiarism checker, as I am sure my text will not go to any databases from here. 

Xiu Zhang, a Chinese native studying in the USA

Paraphrasing Plagiarism


The text written by Mrs. Gibbs looked like this: “ Our research confirmed that teenagers react better to being given a choice both for significant and small decisions. At the age between 10 and 17, they need more space for developing the sense of self and exploring their identity.”

The plagiarized text written by the student looked like this: Our study shows that teenagers need more choices both for large and small decisions in their life. Adolescents want other people to give them more space, to develop a sense of self and explore their identity.”


Clone plagiarism, even the most sophisticated one, is still detectable. The difference between citing others’ ideas and plagiarizing is the presence of the reference and the style of your paraphrasing. You can use different words to embed someone’s words into your text. However, do not simply paraphrase the majority of your paper, and always include the author’s name. 

Patchwork Plagiarism


The text written by Mr. Evans looked like this: The ice cream is a freezing paradise for my taste buds.

The text written by Mr. Adams looked like this: The cake from my dad’s bakery makes me feel the same way when the sun touches my skin.

The plagiarized text written by the student looked like this: The ice cream and the cake from my dad’s bakery are glimpses of paradise for my taste buds that make me feel like the sun touches my skin.


This type of plagiarism means the person collected a few different resources and mixed the information to compose a new text. In this case, the new text has no originality – rather, it is a kind of Frankenstein, sculpted from different pieces. 

The nursing study requires a lot of attention to detail in citing someone’s work. For instance, you should always check that all sources are under five years old. Preventing plagiarism is number two in my editing routine. 

Jean Chaves, a nursing student and hospital worker from New York



A 3rd-year student was assigned a similar topic to one they had written about the year before. The topic was the impact of plastic on marine systems and their habitats. The student had beautifully fit their data into the text already, and their whole work had already been carefully edited. So, the student decided that doing the same job twice made no sense and just passed the full text to their new professor. 


Among other examples of plagiarism, this one is perhaps the most confusing for students. If it’s your own work, how can you not reuse it? The trick is that, yes, you can reuse it. You can refer to the results of your previous work and use the same data you used before. However, you should not take the entire previous text and pass it off as new. It is also better to provide new data and not only paraphrase your last paper. Self-plagiarism is forbidden because you already have received credit for your work, so you are not learning and developing.

Plagiarism types

Intentional and Unintentional Plagiarism

Everything is clear with intentional plagiarism: the person has committed plagiarism consciously and intentionally. But can you unintentionally plagiarize without noticing it? Among the descriptions above, the first 5 types of plagiarism are more straightforward. You can hardly fail to understand when you are not using your own work and you are not referencing it, you are committing plagiarism. However, students can also unintentionally plagiarize in the following ways:

  • You consider the information put forward by the author common knowledge when it is not
  • You do not fully understand what plagiarism is and how to avoid it
  • The information you have found was free access information without clear attribution 
  • Poor paraphrasing or the inappropriate use of quotation marks

After this article, you hopefully don’t have to worry about the second point from this list. As for the others – review this article on how to avoid plagiarism one more time, and make it a habit to check all your citations carefully.

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Nicolas Evans
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Nicholas works in the ESL Department of CustomWritings.com. He’s much adored by students in a private middle school, where he teaches English literature. Amateur actor and great guitar player, Nicholas knows how to enjoy the arts.